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It took some determination to find the unmarked Soho Lounge, but several hundred indie rock kids were rewarded for making the effort August 2, when the weekly Friday-night party Revolver christened a new venue with a typically schizophrenic mix of live music and DJs spinning everything from James Brown to the Who.
Wannabe thugs and their pneumatic bimbos -- staples of the South Beach scene -- were conspicuously absent from the Soho Lounge. From shaggy to shorn, Revolver patrons are victims of an entirely different set of fashions. A few mohawks bobbed above the crowd. Other retro-punks sported mop-tops and white patent leather belts and shoes.
Indie rockers, some carrying satchels (apparently equipped should the need to journal or sketch arise), made up the bulk of the crowd. Studiously clad in retro T-shirts and Buddy Holly glasses, they milled around half-heartedly doing the self-conscious head-bob dance, even during a fairly inspired set by Miami pop-punk staple Quit.
There was a line 30 deep until 3:00 a.m., but it wasn't clear exactly what the people came for until Quit quit, and DJ Alex started to spin. The music wasn't typical dance fare -- the Who, the Rolling Stones -- but even the shyest Elliott Smith disciple abandoned introspection to pile onto the dance floor.
The kids were all white -- well, mostly -- but they danced anyway.
It's a sure bet that the dance floor at Level would clear as soon as a DJ started spinning White Panther punk from 1969. But at Revolver, Rob Tyner's plea to Kick out the jams, motherfuckers! brought the people to the floor as the opening strains of the MC5's call to arms rattled through the sound system.
The crowd of people willing to wait outside Soho Lounge in the broiling heat all night was a testament -- along with the success of Design District neighbor Poplife -- to the fact that there is a market for all types of rock music in Miami.
The trick, says Revolver DJ and organizer Josh Menendez, is creating an atmosphere that doesn't seem like Miami.
Soho Lounge does have a lot more in common with punk and indie clubs in D.C. or New York than anything on South Beach. The bar area downstairs is low-lit with plenty of recessed booths where patrons can keep an eye out for anything worth a smirk. A second bar area upstairs overlooks a cavernous dance floor with a stage for live bands. Wall decorations are sparse, colors muted. No one drinks champagne or smokes cigars.
The club is new, but you can already guess at the stale-beer-and-smoke smell that eventually settles into any club worth its salt. If the club looks innocuous -- and vacant -- from the outside, it looks like perpetual 3:00 a.m. inside.
The overall subterranean aesthetic is complemented by an air-conditioning system that, while not overpowering, puts a dent in the body heat.
Revolver is the only thing going on at the lounge for the indefinite future, and the tri-level architecture supports the party's eclectic dynamic.
"Upstairs the DJs will spin indie, rock, mod, and Sixties," Menendez says. "Downstairs we'll have one room with an electronic mix -- electro and some hip-hop. And I want the other room to be just garage and Sixties music, all vinyl."
The upper level of Soho Lounge has the usual bar seating and couches and chairs piled into corners. Wallflowers can people-watch from the chairs along the railing overlooking the dance floor.
Going from the dance floor to the bar downstairs can be tricky, as the trip requires passing a set of mirrors that reveal uncomfortable truths about how cool you really look after sweating to the oldies.
The basic-bar look of Soho Lounge fits Revolver in the same way both the club and the night misfit Miami. Soho Lounge could be in Soho, or Chicago or D.C. -- a smoky, dark place to drink and hear music with guitars.
Or not. The new space has inspired the Revolver organizers to broaden the guitar-driven booking of live acts to electronic and even hip-hop. Electroguru Momus was originally slated to christen the new venue, and Revolver will host a bevy of bands from electro-pop label Kindercore in October. Indie hip-hopper Atmosphere will play on October 11.
"I'm not saying I'm going to start booking folk musicians," Menendez says, "but if it's quality I'm going to go ahead and do it."